Yes, Avigdor Liberman really enjoys being foreign minister.
around the world like a bull in a china shop, talking to diners at the Saban
Forum like a doberman, provoking the Europeans, preaching his truth to the
. But he doesn’t really want to stay on as foreign minister in the next
He’s had his fill. By the way, if you ask the Europeans,
they’ve also had it with him. And he doesn’t really want to be defense minister.
At least, that’s what he tells his associates.
Every time someone says on
television, or writes in the newspaper, that Liberman will be the next defense
minister, Yvette (his birth name) smiles.
Let them be a little afraid, he
tells his associates, why not? What he really wants is to be the next finance
And not just the finance minister.
If it’s possible, and
with Liberman it is possible, then he wants to be finance minister, housing
minister and interior minister. Nothing less. Why not? At one time, Ariel Sharon
built a portfolio for Ehud Olmert that was not much smaller.
Liberman wants to solve the housing crisis in Israel within two weeks. He has
been dreaming about that since he served as director of the Prime Minister’s
Office during Binyamin Netanyahu’s first term in 1996-1999. Then he was
frustrated by the bureaucratic blockages that still pervade the whole country,
by the body now called the Israel Lands Authority, and by stuck-up
He thinks that nothing can been resolved without merging the
three relevant ministries: the ministry with the money (Finance), the ministry
with the land (Interior) and the regulatory ministry (Construction and
Liberman wants every young couple in Israel to be able to get
affordable housing. Not just haredim, who are now taken care of by Ariel Attias,
the housing minister from Shas. Regular Israelis, those who carry the national
Liberman knows he can do it, When people tell him that the next
finance minister will have to cut NIS 15 billion in a month and a half, he
snorts scornfully. In 1996, he says, we cut more. There’s no problem in
Will he get all three ministries from Netanyahu? Liberman
usually gets what he wants. The thing is that all this is being said before the
elections. The public hasn’t get gone to the polls; the coalition hasn’t yet
Perhaps these ministries will be given to Yisrael Beytenu,
and Liberman will hand out the Interior and Housing ministries to his people.
But it’s also possible that all of Liberman’s plans will go up in smoke, and he
will be forced to do something else. (A note of caution: There’s always the
possibility that he is trying to put everyone to sleep, and when they wake up,
he will already be at the Kirya, the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv,
playing with the red button.) It’s interesting that Liberman’s agenda is
parallel to everything that Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett says. He
also wants to be the next housing minister.
Who knows, they might
ultimately work together, Yvette in the Finance and Interior ministries, Bennett
in Housing. The two men respect each other.
But in the interim, Liberman
has no intention of giving up his agenda for the sake of Bennett. The only real
threat to the Likud Beytenu list today is Bennett. And unlike Bennett, who
hasn’t yet done anything in politics and hasn’t moved a real building from one
place to another, Liberman has the credentials of a bulldozer. Most of the time,
he has dealt with demolitions. Now we wants to build. If he tackles the housing
crisis as if it were Abu Mazen, the Palestinian Authority’s president, then it
will be resolved in 18 months, not two years. Just out of fear.
a not slim chance that the next government can be formed without haredi parties.
Likud Beytenu plus two or three of the center-left parties (Shelly Yacimovich,
Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid) plus Bennett. What’s wrong with that? They will be
able to change the electoral system and call up haredim to do national service.
Livni would be foreign minister and Lapid education minister. The Likud’s Gilad
Erdan, by the way, is being talked about as a candidate for justice minister.
The Likud’s Moshe Ya’alon would be defense minister.
And if Livni is out,
then the Likud’s Gidon Sa’ar could be foreign minister and Labor’s Yacimovich
minister of industry and trade, or welfare, or both.
More and more
voices, in the Likud and around Liberman (which just echo Liberman), are
speaking about the need to finally make the necessary socioeconomic changes in
Israel, to look inward, not outward, let Shas dry out in the next government’s
term of office, together with Ashkenazi haredim, and put our house in order.
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